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The Effort to Restore Tropical Forests Gets a Massive Cutting Edge

Fast-growing liana vines climb up and choke back new tree growth. (Paul Godard via Flickr)

By Richard Sadler

Research by scientists from the UK and Tanzania has revealed that assisted ecological restoration can lead to dramatic increases in growth of new and established trees—helping to mitigate climate change and boost biodiversity.

All that is required, they say, is effective control of lianas, the fast-growing, woody climbing vines that, left to their own devices, quickly take over forest in which most or all of the merchantable timber has been cut, and crowd out emerging tree seedlings.

Trials carried out over five years in Tanzania’s Magombera forest—one of the world’s most threatened habitats—compared tree growth on plots where lianas were left undisturbed with those where they were cut back twice a year.

The results are remarkable, with a 765% increase in net biomass gain on plots where lianas were managed. Crucially, the trials suggest this can be achieved without affecting species diversity.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016